Impressing your girlfriend may have been easy, but doing the same with her parents is an entirely different story. When she invites you to go out to dinner with them, the thought may leave you feeling anxious about the experience. No matter if you are meeting them for the first time or dining with them after knowing them awhile, it's important to mind your manners and be on your best behavior during the meal. Doing so will show them how lucky their daughter is to have you in her life.
Choosing the Perfect Place
Choose the perfect restaurant to improve the chances the dinner will go as well as you want it to. Talk to your girlfriend about her parent's likes and dislikes; choose a place that is vegetarian-friendly if her parents avoid meat, for example. If you aren't able to consult with your partner, make reservations at a place with a wide menu to ensure they will find food that meets their preferences and dietary restrictions. In addition, avoid a loud restaurant where you can't hear each other talk. If you feel overwhelmed with all of the possibilities, ask her parents to select the place and avoid any uncomfortable situation where they dislike the special place you choose.
Choosing Your Outfit
Dress appropriately for dinner out. You don't need to wear a tux if you are having a casual meal at the local diner, but don't wear your tattered shorts either. Choose a nicely ironed collared shirt and darker pair of jeans or pants. If the restaurant has a dress code, be sure to follow it. When in doubt, always dress up rather than down to avoid an embarrassing situation. No matter how casual or fancy the place, avoid showing off your coolest tattoos or latest crazy hairstyle at dinner. While you should never hide your personality, show her parents you differentiate between a casual and more formal occasion.
Strike up stimulating but appropriate conversation while you dine with your girlfriend's parents. Ask them questions about their hobbies, jobs or other interests and look them in the eyes when speaking, suggests Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus in "Psychology Today." If you know her dad plays golf on the weekends, ask him what he thought about the latest PGA tour. Avoid controversial topics like politics or religion, and save your personal opinions for other circumstances. A good rule of thumb is to pretend you are at a job interview. Unless you are very comfortable with her parents, if you wouldn't talk about something at an interview or in front of your boss, then don't talk about it when you are out to dinner either.
Consider bringing some type of small token to present to your girlfriend's parents, as this can intensify a bond between individuals. Consider a handwritten card, small gift card or other inexpensive trinket if you are out celebrating a special birthday or anniversary. Whatever you choose, select something small and lightweight. Save the floral bouquets for seeing her parents in their home, since they won't have a place to put the flowers while you eat. Even if a gift isn't appropriate or affordable, minding your basic manners goes a long way. Avoid burping loudly and if you need to, simply politely say "excuse me" and move on. Most importantly, treat your girlfriend in a respectful manner, because nothing will bring her parents more peace than seeing you treat her with the respect she deserves.
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Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.
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